Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two takes on gulf muhly

with 29 comments

The decorative grass classified botanically as Muhlenbergia capillaris goes by the common names gulf muhly, pink muhly, and hair grass. The last time it appeared in these pages was four years ago. Because 4 is 2 times 2 as well as 2 plus 2 and also 2 to the power 2, and because mathematics is abstract, here are two abstract views of gulf muhly taken outside the Cedar Park Recreation Center on November 18th. The plant in the second, though still, appears to be blowing; thus did the genie in my camera make the static dynamic.

Muhly is short for Muhlenbergia, whose origin the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explains this way: “The genus of this plant is named for Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815), also Heinrich Ludwig Muehlenberg, or Henry Muhlenberg, who was a German-educated Lutheran minister and the first president of Franklin College, now Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania. He is most famous due to his work in the field of botany. An accomplished botanist, chemist, and mineralogist, Henry is credited with classifying and naming 150 species of plants in his 1785 work Index Flora Lancastriensis. Muhlenberg’s work and collaboration with European botanists led to great advances in the study of plants and earned him the distinction as America’s first outstanding botanist.”

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2019 at 4:42 AM

29 Responses

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  1. Both are nice. I’ve looked at a few stands of grasses with something like this in mind but haven’t done much to this point. I like these. The second seems breezy.

    Steve Gingold

    December 28, 2019 at 5:00 AM

    • Breezy-looking indeed, yet in fact still. We look forward to your grassy abstractions when the time is right.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2019 at 2:23 PM

  2. And all the prettier for having a blue sky behind. Something sadly lacking here this month.


    December 28, 2019 at 5:38 AM

    • And lacking here today, too, though gloriously present yesterday. To get blue sky, and only blue sky, behind the grass, I lay on the ground and aimed partially upward.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2019 at 2:25 PM

  3. One of my favorite plants. I can’t grow Gulf muhly–too much shade. Your shots capture their diaphanous beauty, especially with the blue sky as a backdrop. Nice!!


    December 28, 2019 at 8:11 AM

    • Ooh, diaphanous, good word. Too bad your yard is too shady for you to be able to say that about your own muhly. I replied to Jude (above) that to get blue sky, and only blue sky, behind the grass, I lay on the ground and aimed partially upward.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2019 at 2:27 PM

  4. The first image really captures the feel of this beautiful grass. I really like Muhly grass~it gets used here in landscapes.


    December 28, 2019 at 9:16 AM

  5. That is very beautiful grass. I enjoyed the photos very much!

    Lavinia Ross

    December 28, 2019 at 9:20 AM

  6. An absolutely wonderful plant. Guess which one is my favorite…

    Michael Scandling

    December 28, 2019 at 10:58 AM

  7. Or, just because it’s as frothy and pretty as cotton candy! 😉 Seriously, I really like these photos, Steve. (Those were the days, when one man could identify, classify and name 150 different plants – cool!)


    December 28, 2019 at 8:09 PM

  8. I didn’t see one bit of Gulf muhly this fall, since moving sucked up so much of my time and energy. These are wonderful images: belt of Venus colors in floral form.

    I was surprised to read that you’ve mostly seen plantings of the grass. I’ve come across it at the Sandylands sanctuary, along a stretch of fenceline along FM2004 in Brazoria County, and in a small patch at the San Bernard refuge. I was surprised to see it as far north as New York when I looked at the map. I didn’t anticipate that.


    December 29, 2019 at 6:00 AM

    • When I checked the distribution map I saw that Travis County isn’t included, and that matched my experience of seeing only planted specimens here. In contrast, from Bastrop eastward many counties are marked for gulf muhly, which mirrors your experience.

      Your not seeing this grass recently because of your move reminds me of when we bought our current house and sold the previous one in 2004. My photo archive for that year is pretty slim.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2019 at 6:32 AM

  9. Pretty!!


    December 29, 2019 at 7:57 PM

  10. I like the abstract – the stems organize all that complexity nicely.


    December 31, 2019 at 12:42 PM

  11. This looks like how it is described in catalogues. I have not actually seen it like this in landscapes here.


    January 9, 2020 at 12:17 AM

    • It’s becoming more common here. That’s good, not only intrinsically but because I get more chances to photograph this showy grass.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2020 at 6:03 AM

      • When I wrote about it, I read that it has potential to naturalize in some regions!


        January 9, 2020 at 8:41 PM

        • I suspect that’s true of most species, given favorable conditions.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 9, 2020 at 10:01 PM

          • Well, with all the aggressively naturalized exotics here, I really don’t need even one more. I would grow such things in urban areas, where they have no place to escape to, or at least no place that more of the same has not already escaped into, but I am more careful in non-urban areas.


            January 9, 2020 at 10:15 PM

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